Google Maps Mania recently had an interesting post about time-lapse videos of Earth from space captured by a Japanese weather satellite named Himawari-8. Check them out on the Himawari-8 website here. In addition to the time-lapse videos, the website’s homepage features a near real-time view of the earth. In addition, you can scroll through images for the past week. There are two possible views selectable from the menu at the top left. There is a view of just the Japan region with images every two and a half minutes and a view of the whole globe with images taken at 10 minute intervals.
View from Himawari-8 at noon. The time shown is Japan time (UTC +9).
It is important to note, however, that Himiwari-8 is a geostationary satellite and so it always has the same view of the earth, which in this case is centred above the equator to the south of Japan. Geostationary satellites have the advantage of being able to monitor a single view continuously. In addition, geostationary orbits are so high (35,786 km approx.) that it is possible to take an image of the whole world at once (from a particular angle). Most high resolution imaging satellites, such as those that provide most of the imagery for Google Earth, are in much lower orbits (typically 400 – 600 km) and travel at such fast speed that they can only view a particular location for a few minutes, as we saw with the UrtheCast videos. They still fly over the same location on earth once a day or more, so longer term time-lapses are still possible.
Google Earth’s weather layer includes a near real-time cloud layer that comes from weather satellites similar to the Japanese one. If you check the ‘information’ sub-layer of the weather layer you can download a 24 hour animation of the clouds viewable in Google Earth.